The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt Good Life Performance By Tabitha A. Basuseto

The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt is a play that revolves around two seminarians, Michaud and Talbot. The play revolves around the big themes of moral and ethical obligations, and social oppressions and privileges. Both characters were questioned and challenged on their morals and ethics, and the things that they are willing to sacrifice in order to obtain the good life. Additionally, the play highlights the desire of material goods, and the quest to jump over the fence between poverty and the bourgeoisie. Personally, I enjoyed the show overall as it really depicts the accounts of history at that time, and the situations that people in that era defines as the good life.

Tanya Chiu and I outside of the Constans Theatre during intermission.

The Spatial Experience: My first impression of the Constans theatre was that I never realized that it was there (location-wise). I passed by that area of the Reitz so many times, but I never realized, and I couldn't imagine the fact that there's an auditorium there. The contrast between the compact area as I walked through the glass door to get my ID card swiped and the large auditorium was what I felt. I was awed at first, because even though I've been to theaters before, the Constans Theatre surpassed my expectation in the quality of the audio systems and settings. I felt claustrophobic while lining up to get my ID swiped because it was such a small space, with low ceilings and a lot of people. I was able to breathe again as I entered the auditorium with its high ceilings, and indistinct chatters. The warm-colored lights that are usually used in theaters added a calming ambience of the theatre. The role of place plays in the good life in a way that one should feel comfort and security where one is located in. I felt that being inside the auditorium at Constans Theatre gave me the feeling of comfort and calmness.

The Social Experience: Prior to attending the play, I had initially done some research on what the play is about, and the reviews. By doing that, I came into the theater knowing of what to expect, and have a deeper understanding of the story line and what it is all about. I had attended the play with my fellow classmate Tanya. Attending the play with a friend is great because during intermissions and after the play, we can talk about what we think about the play and clarify any confusions if any of us was unsure of what's going on. If I had gone by myself, there will be no one I would be able to talk about the play to. It is important in the good life that we have someone with us to live through life. As humans we are social beings, and one can't live in complete solitude.

The Cultural and Intellectual Experience: The play sets in Quebec City, Canada in 1905. The central issue that was addressed in the play was the contrast in class standings, in other words, the poor versus the bourgeoisie. Based on my previous knowledge, in the past, there was a high distinction between the rich and the poor, and unlike today where there are a lot of stories from rags to riches, the line between the poor and the rich was difficult to pass at that time. The poor will stay poor, unless with true hard work and determination, and the poor will stay poor because the rich will always boss them around. Through the play, I learned that the only viable way to get out of poverty, and gain a status in the political, spiritual, and intellectual world was through the Catholic church. It was interesting knowing that a priest could make twice the salary of an average worker. Additionally, at that time, the church was of a high hierarchy and it had a high power in shaping the society. The performance changed my views because it was interesting for me to realize this because since then, the church's power has declined. For example, in the US, the Constitution is of the highest power nowadays.

The Emotional Experience: One of the way that the play allows us to experience katharsis, is through Sarah. Sarah Bernhardt was the embodiment of katharsis. Throughout the play, Sarah Bernhardt had challenge a lot of the gender stereotypes at that time. For example, she was a women, however, she had wanted to play a male role. She had also played the role of a female leader. Even though she had a manager, Bernhardt rules the show and her life. Another way that katharsis was shown was through the scene that shows that dangers of working in factories and the poor conditions in which the factory workers work in. The play depicted a few people dying inside the shoe factory, including Talbot's little brother.

Created By
Tabitha Basuseto

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